With its first birthday approaching in December, product discovery service Cravebox is building connections with brands to provide themed product boxes along with a slew of data-collecting and social initiatives to both engage consumers and gather information about them.
The company was launched to capitalize on the discovery commerce space with brand promotions that are social and measurable, says CEO Kitty Kolding. In order to do so, Cravebox puts together shipments of boxes with products connected by a common theme. When a consumer is interested in a particular theme, he or she - although, to date, primarily she - can sign up to receive a shipment.
"The goal is to bring very targeted consumers together with brands using themed boxes," Kolding says.
To date, Cravebox has worked with brands like: Kraft Foods, Johnson and Johnson, Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Heinz, McCormick, Duncan Hines, General Mills, Glad and Clorox.
Cravebox has put out 16 shipments since May 2012. Kolding estimates there will be about eight shipments in the coming weeks and will expand to 100 in 2013.
Themes include activities, interest and occasions, such as: food/beverage, kids/baby/family, hobbies, pets, recreation and cooking/entertaining. Cravebox is also looking at the entertainment sector, including TV, music and books, as well as more male-oriented themes like sports.
In order to receive a box, consumers must opt in and pay between $10 and $15 per box to ensure engagement. Cravebox, in turn, is able to gather data about each consumer.
"That was the real goal, to give consumer marketers a way to engage with the consumer in a very targeted but relevant promotion and use social to amplify [those efforts]," Kolding says.
The boxes typically contain full-size products, although they sometimes include large samples or vouchers for perishable or large items.
Each box typically contains about five to eight items and each shipment consists of approximately 2,000 to 10,000 boxes.
"It's a range of both new products and some existing products," Kolding says. "Brands tend to use us for launches, line extensions and key buying seasons when they want to add social [and] word of mouth to an overall campaign."
When a box experience is ready to go, Cravebox launches a promotion for three to four weeks.
Next, Cravebox has consumers enter a drawing to win a spot in the shipment if they want a particular box.
"That adds intensity to the promotion," Kolding says. "They are aware lots more people are interested than there are boxes available."
Then, consumers must answer a questionnaire. Each drawing entry survey has two parts: the first part includes demographic data, such as age, gender, presence and age of kids, address and marital status; the second differs for each box based on shipment and program objectives, Kolding says.
Cravebox collects entries for about a week and then surveys the entrant pool. The company removes any consumer who is not in the right demographic for a particular shipment. The remaining consumers receive an email congratulating them on winning a spot in the shipment.
From there, Cravebox launches a social component, which includes Twitter parties, as well as blog, Pinterest and video contests.
Cravebox's Twitter parties are 60-minute events. The time is divided depending on the number of products in a particular box. A team of six panelists and two staff members moderate each Twitter party. According to Kolding, Cravebox typically has about 1,000 participants per party. Cravebook has 5,800 Twitter followers.
Box recipients and the Cravebox community are invited via email and social mentions to attend Twitter parties. A hashtag is designated for the theme of the box, Kolding says. Cravebox also sets up a custom TweetGrid for each Twitter party.
Cravebox typically uses Facebook as a content distribution point to remind and promote various boxes and contests taking place with each program, Kolding says. Cravebox has 4,400 Facebook fans.
Cravebox will launch Instagram programs in January.
"When we ship boxes, we want to make sure there's a series of ways to share [about them] and make sure it happens on behalf of a brand," Kolding says. "We don't want to leave it to chance. We want to tap [consumers] on the shoulder...they're on social in the first place and like to talk and share, so we want to give them easy, fun ways to share and insert contests and incentives to draw them in more."
Cravebox also tracks the impressions and reach around sharing in order to demonstrate to brands how much reach they have gotten, as well as the tone and tenor of conversations.
"When you think about what a consumer has done to get box -- filled out a questionnaire, entered a drawing, paid to get the box [and] spent a week playing game with hints, by the time they get the box, they are so excited," Kolding says.
This anticipation is a very powerful way to introduce a consumer to a product, Kolding adds.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
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